Emerging from the swamplands of New Orleans, Louisiana — a city rich with urban legends of voodoo curses, ghosts and murder — Goatwhore was formed in 1997 by guitarist Sammy Duet (Acid Bath, Crowbar, Ritual Killer etc.). Their history is a winding one marked by lineup shifts, temporary paralysis, haunted studios, and the survival of one of the five most destructive hurricanes in US history. Influenced by the raw savagery of bands like Venom and Celtic Frost, their unrefined, fuck-all approach to black metal first revealed on the Serenades To The Tides Of Blood demo and expanded upon on the now legendary Eclipse Of Ages Into Black debut nearly a decade ago earned the band instant underground credibility. Then comprised of Duet, vocalist Ben Falgoust and guitarist Ben Stout (both of Soilent Green), bassist Patrick Bruders and drummer Zak Nolan, Goatwhore toured relentlessly and by 2003 had garnered a loyal cult following of metal fans old and new. Second full-length Funeral Dirge for the Rotting Sun was a slower, more introverted affair that transcended well beyond the confines of traditional black metal. Impossibly heavy and lyrically dense, with Falgoust’s and Duet’s high-to-low vocal tradeoffs fusing its menacing atmosphere, the 12-tracks within were met with equal approval and the band quickly returned to the road.
Goatwhore joined the Metal Blade roster for 2006’s monumental A Haunting Curse. Where Funeral Dirge… followed a near-fatal van crash that left Falgoust temporarily confined to a wheelchair and the very future of the band uncertain, the creation of A Haunting Curse saw the four-piece — Duet, Falgoust, and new-recruits drummer Zack Simmons (Nachtmystium) and bassist Nathan Bergeron — fleeing the flood waters of 2005's catastrophic Hurricane Katrina.
Undeterred — and perhaps all the more driven by the consistent bout of bad luck — Goatwhore joined famed producer/Hate Eternal frontman Erik Rutan at Mana Studios in St. Petersburg, FL to unleash their most maniacal offering yet. More furious than its gloomier predecessor, A Haunting Curse fused the tenets of traditional black metal with gritty, thrash-based riffing, machinegun blasts, rabid pace shifts and Falgoust’s possessive snarl. The disc was embraced by fans and media globally, earning an impressive 4/5 rating from Revolver who said of the record, “Tragedy has fueled their fire before, but never this brilliantly.” Outburn called A Haunting Curse "an assault so vicious that listeners may need assistance to stand back up,” while Terrorizer declared, "You'd be hard pushed to pick up a more frighteningly violent piece of work.” Another two years of touring found the band sharing stages with a host of metal luminaries including Venom, Celtic Frost, Exodus, 1349, Fear Factory and Sunn0))). A slot on 2007’s Sounds of the Underground tour and last summer’s Metallica-headlined, one-date-only Ozzfest in Texas only helped spread the troupe’s unholy word like plague.
Sure to lure further attention from metal fans of all walks with its battering-ram rhythms and apocalyptic charm, this year’s Carving out the Eyes of God is Goatwhore’s most defining record to date. A heavy-handed title that challenges God’s alleged purity; the record was recorded again by Erik Rutan and mastered by Alan Douches at West West Side Music. With its suitably stark black and white cover art, the ten-track offering sports a near perfect sequence of punk-flavored road-ragers, blast-laden black metal rituals and Satan-hailing anthems. Featuring Duet’s most dynamic leadwork ever heard on a Goatwhore release and a deafening collective tightness that comes in part from their rigid road regimen, songs like “Apocalyptic Havoc,” “The All Destroying” and “Reckoning of the Soul Made Godless” are dark, infectious, hook-laden metal classics in the making.
“We’re black metal fans ripping off thrash riffs,” laughs Falgoust. “I don't want to come off with the typical speech about how this record is our best yet. Every member put a great deal of effort into their part of the project. Erik Rutan busted his ass even more this time to make us feel that we didn't take any steps backwards in the recording and production of this release. The new material is ripping metal and we still have that ‘Goatwhore’ sound, whatever that may mean for each individual that enjoys, or hates, what we do.”
“I think A Haunting Curse was more focused on speed,” adds Duet. “There’s still speed on Carving out the Eyes of God, but it isn’t the main factor here. The songs on Carving out the Eyes of God are more traditional and not so much just random riffing or seeing how many parts we can put into one song. Over all I think it’s what a Goatwhore album should be: Simple and to the point, heavy — and I do mean heavy — dark, corrosive and loud.”
Skeptics fearing a lighter, more refined Goatwhore have little to fear. The band still has plenty to be angry about.
“This album is definitely more concentrated in ferocity and its intent to destroy,” notes Simmons. “It’s a natural continuation of the band's sound and ideology. We already proved we could play fast with A Haunting Curse. It’s time to explore new methods of destruction.”
Duet sums it up simply: “If you don't like it, kiss my ass.”
Fresh off a successful US tour as direct support to pagan-loving label-mates Amon Amarth, Goatwhore will team up with Abigail Williams this summer for the Conquer & Curse Tour 2009, which will cover over 60 dates throughout North America. Joining the tour will be Daath, Abysmal Dawn and Success Will Write Apocalypse Across The Sky. From there, the band will embark on another US jaunt with Obituary through the fall.
In an oversaturated metal landscape where sub-genres spawn sub-sub-genres and the very definition of “metal” seems blurred by cross-pollinating madness, sacred are the bands who stay true to their roots. Goatwhore spew the sort of sinister, fist-clenching, speaker-searing sound that made metal so forbiddingly enticing in the first place. The year of the ‘Whore is truly upon us! Carving out the Eyes of God is available worldwide June 23rd.